Sometimes the hollow is a dreamworld.
In the springtime the road is thick with pollen and bees
land on my fingers, and the blossoms are bright and frilly
as ruffled petticoats a hundred years ago.
I am lucky that these are old orchards,
not commercial and rarely visited. I am lucky
that the vineyards have not overrun this cool dip of valley and that the wildflowers
and redwoods here are forgotten by society.
It is my forest, my haunting, my dream.
I have lived in this tiny pocket of california so long now I sometimes forget my age,
when I came here, my first impressions, the passing seasons,
the ways I’ve changed.
It has been a month now since the day of rupture, evaporation.
Sadly, agonizingly, I dream it night after night:
not a pleasant dream, but not really a nightmare, just a painful repetition of the reality of that evening and my life collapsing around me.
I am home,
in the tiny kitchen of our cottage,
wearing an old homemade jumper of faded flowers.
I am washing old jars I picked up at the thrift store, getting ready to plant herbs.
My husband Ben is due home any minute. A pot of tofu couscous warms on the stovetop. I am proud, because dinner is never ready in time for his arrival.
Any minute now, I expect his surprised and pleased face as he walks into the kitchen and smells the garlic and peppers and frying tortillas.
He will tease me, asking me, what’s the occasion, my little housewifey? I will laugh and push him, and tell him, I’ve been working my ass off while you’ve been gallivanting! that’s the occasion! I can almost feel him sunburnt face, his strong arms around me,
like a storybook husband.
There is a better, more secret gift that I will give him.
I wanted to wait until Mother’s Day and tell him then, but it is only Thursday
and I cannot wait. The feeling of life growing inside me is too vital and vast
to bury any longer. I have only known for a few days
but I cannot hold back from Ben
and the anticipation of his joy overwhelms me.
I will tell him tonight and watch the beams of sunlight fill his eyes.
We are going to have a New Year’s baby.
I wait. The food grows cold.
An hour passes as I dry out the jars and begin to fill them with soil and seeds.
I think he must have stopped for a beer at Ernie’s with some of the guys from work.
Not typical, but maybe it is someone’s birthday or something.
I calmly think through the possibilities and for the first time
I wish that he had a cell phone.
With my big news glowing inside me, keeping me serene and happy, even as a second hour passes, I never get angry with him for being late.
I go up the wooden steps to put on my nightgown at nine thirty.
I am up in our loft bedroom when I hear the sound of tires on the gravel out front. Merrily I hurry down the steps and through the front door.
On the front porch, amid hanging ivy plants and cats,
I see that it is a police car and not Ben’s truck.
My hand goes to my mouth.
Now, as in the dream later, I cannot scream, I cannot speak.
Stricken, I watch as two officers get out of the car.
They emerge from the sides of it like bad weather, simultaneously and foreboding.
One is young, my age, I recognize him from high school
but I cannot remember his name.
The other is maybe forty or fifty, with a graying moustache.
His eyes are brilliantly blue and remind me of the ocean on a cloudless day at Bodega Bay. He reminds me of my father and before he even speaks,
I want him to hug me, to hold me against his broad chest,
to pat my hair and tell me everything is alright.
His words betray me.
Nothing is all right.
Everything is wrong.
Even in the dream the words are a jumble and nothing makes sense.
I remember he first addresses me Mrs. Culver.
No one calls me that. I never speak to anyone who doesn’t call me Jade.
Ben and I haven’t been married long enough for this new name to take hold firmly.
But the officer uses my real name too, so I know he means me, and he knows who I am, and it is no mistake:
Jade, Jade, terrible news,
sorry, accident, Petaluma,
lumber truck, hospital, didn’t make it, tried,
sorry, head wounds, trauma, accident,
101, south, fatal, terrible, come, family, notify,
He speaks on and on but nothing is registering anymore.
I am trying to listen but something has changed inside my ears
and I can feel a shift in my brain.
It is the strangest sensation.
I am trying to stay focused, to listen,
to figure out exactly what this man is telling me,
but everything inside me feels like it is falling,
sliding down an enormously steep slope,
The part of me that thinks
is being buried.
My body is
a lunatic wind
and this is the part I remember best but can describe least.
A dark fog enters, immense and dangerous,
twisting all around and through me,
prickling with some devilish fear.
It is inside my head and body, but also in my cottage,
in the faces of the sheriffs, and in their car.
It is around me and it is grasping at me from every angle,
like little knife-pricks and it feels like murder.
So this is what it feels like to die.